nivo total station teodolit hiperaktivite The Non-Consumer Advocate Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Page 4

Airport boys

  1. We’re currently hosting a Japanese exchange college student who stayed with us in 2011. He’s been studying in Portland all year, and needed place to stay for a few weeks after school ended. Although traveling to another country is prohibitively expensive for the entire family right now, hosting costs next to nothing. Not only do we learn new things about the Japanese culture every time we host, but it’s also a teeny bit like traveling without leaving home.
  2. We spent yesterday driving to and from Mt. Hood. And although we could have stayed at my father’s cabin for free, I wanted to just keep it simple. I made sure to serve a filling brunch before we left the house, and stopped at Subway for footlong sandwiches late in the afternoon. We walked along the Zig Zag river, hiked up to Mirror Lake and drove all the way up to Timberline Lodge. Yes, we used gasoline, but I made sure to fill up at the cheap Safeway station on the way home, which was priced at 30¢-per-gallon less than in Portland. I could have splurged on a restaurant dinner, but that would have added at least $60 to our day.
  3. My 16-year-old son, who is on day three of his monthlong exchange to Japan had some very specific items he needed to buy for his trip. This included two pairs of black slacks and two short sleeve white dress shirts. (School uniform.) I ended up having to buy the shirts new, but it was only after looking for weeks in area thrift shops. However, I got two new looking pairs of slacks, as well as a black belt, plus his already thrifted standard wardrobe. He used the thrifted large roll aboard suitcase from my older son’s trip.
  4.  My husband was bringing five people to a recent Portland Timbers game, (using tickets he got for free.) and I was concerned that the price of feeding everyone at the stadium would kill the whole “got all these tickets for free” vibe. I was able to quickly cook up a batch of red lentil soup and cheddar biscuits that satisfied everyone and kept the budget under control.
  5. Orgy HornI did not spend $2.99 to buy this Goodwill Orgy Horn. “You can’t put it down till you finish your drink.” Eeuww . . . 

Orgy Horn

Orgy Horn

Orgy Horn

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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How Cheap is Too Cheap?

by Katy on June 17, 2014 · 32 comments

I am very, very cheap.

This is neither a confession nor should it be a surprise to anyone who’s read The Non-Consumer Advocate for more than a week or two. It’s simply a fact, a fact I’m proud of. I keep myself stocked with ponytail holders by picking them up off the ground, I bring home the abandoned leftovers from my mother’s guest cottages and I do all my own beauty care. I color my own hair, beg free haircuts from my sister and use the waxing kit from the drugstore for my, umm . . . Mario and Luigi needs.

But I would like to think that within my cheapness lies a certain generosity.

Yes, I nab the cheapest option for school volunteer opportunities, (“clean up” rather than “bring cupcakes”) but I am still doing my due diligence as a parent volunteer. We’re currently housing a former Japanese exchange student without accepting payment and we’ve sponsored a Zambian girl through Childfund over the past eight years. I’m not as generous as some, but I figure that I’m more generous than others.

But I will always try and figure out free or cheap solutions to life’s daily expenditures.

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Maeve Binchy’s Chestnut Street. (Wonderful, I highly recommend it!) This collection of short stories features a character who’s so frugal as to be considered “mean.” (British term for someone who is both cheap and ungenerous.) At first I was excited to have this character, but as the stories were set as morals, this guy was far from being a source of inspiration. He marries a woman because she’s financially solvent and then forces her to work after hours, and generally delights in his cheapness at the expense of all others in his life. (I wish I could include a quote or two, but since it was an audiobook, the words are next to impossible to capture.)

Needless to say, there was no generosity within his cheapness.

I asked Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group members this question:

Do you ever catch yourself being too cheap? What do you do that others consider to be crossing the line of acceptable frugality?”

Here are just a few from the many answers.

From Shannon:

“My cheapo confession is that we sometimes fish coke codes out of the trash or off the side of the road. Have gotten $100+ worth of gift cards and we don’t drink soda.”

From Lisa:

“Most things I do the “average” family thinks of as “too cheap.” No credit cards, no tv, no wifi (though that is changing very soon due to a college student) no computer at home (ditto), no go-away vacations, no fake nails, no spa/salon visits, no “essential” mani/pedi/waxing (ok, I wax my eyebrows–but at home!), almost no eating out etc for maybe birthdays, no hording coupons (I don’t buy much of that stuff), no new decorating every time I’m bored (I did do the bathroom this year because it was all over 10 years old and from a previous house, but got everything on clearance), I could go on and on and on. When a friend applied for a mortgage they asked how much for fake nails! I was gobsmacked. This country no longer has the ability to tell a want from a need!”

From Selina:

“I will tell you something that crossed the line, IMO. Before we had kids, we stayed with my aunt and uncle out of state for three nights. They told me I could not shower — at all — while we were there, and they didn’t flush the toilet until it “was full.” Ewww! The whole house smelled, really. My hubby went to the bathroom, then flushed, and it overflowed. To this day, that is one of his most horrifying memories. We never stayed there again! ”

I personally can’t imagine a time when I would stop employing creative cheap/frugal solutions to everyday problems. (Even if I did win the lottery.) My cheapness allows my family to pay for things like a summer in Japan, (my son leaves on Thursday!) and frees up my time and money. If I worked full time, it would be difficult to host exchange students, and thrifting for life’s necessities would be too time consuming.

My daily cheap life gives me the wiggle room to live the life I want. If my cheapness means that I have the time and money for the important stuff, then there’s no such thing as too cheap.

Do you embrace a cheap lifestyle that allows for generosity? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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It’s time again for Non-Consumer Mish-Mash, where I write a little bit about this and a little bit about that.

From Stained T-Shirts to Useful Rug

I have a new favorite decor blog called Upstyler.net, whose tagline is “Creating treasure from trash.” A recent blog post features a small round rug made from crocheted old T-shirts. The pink and white colors are super adorable for a small girl’s room and totally within my skill set. (I can crochet, I just normally see no need to do it.)

There are always old scrappy T-shirts in Portland’s free boxes/piles, and this would be the perfect project to make use of these unwanted garments.

Click HERE to read the blog post.

Mini Non-Consumer Photo Essay

Today I took my son thrifting to find some of the things he needs for his upcoming summer in Japan. (Black slacks, white dress shirts, etc.) Of course, I came across a directed savings bank:

Cadillac Bank

I bought a packet of assorted lettuce seeds last week and noticed that the larger amount cost 10¢ less. Guess which one I bought.

Lettuce seeds

Of course it would take eighty 10¢ savings to cover the cost of parking at my son’s high school graduation ceremony.

Gulp.

$8 Parking

We picked up our Japanese exchange student yesterday at the Portland State University dorms, where the students were abandoning their belongings left and right. It took every ounce of self control possible to not cram the mini-van with all the perfectly good (and re-saleable) stuff. This student’s girlfriend chose not to be photographed, as she “was still hungover from last night.”

Ahh . . . college.

Dorm move-out

What’s in the box? It killed me to not rummage through the dumpsters, but I did bring home this perfectly fine floor lamp. It will be featured soon in its very own blog post!

Dumpster lamp

Omiyage Japanese Host Family Gifts

I am in the final countdown with all the millions of details for readying my son for his month in Sapporo. (Are you noticing a theme?) And since he’ll stay with two different host families with a total of six kids between them, I am working hard to figure out the very best host family gifts. Ideally the gifts will be useful, locally made or edible. Also, not heavy or breakable. So far I’ve bought faux-retro Oregon tea towels for the mothers, and boxes of See’s lollipops as whole-family gifts.

I am not one for giving useless knick-knacks or anything designed to simply decorate a stranger’s home. We’ll see what I come up with over the next few days.

I do this every few years, so I try to not reinvent the wheel. And yes, Japanese host family gifts are very much one of my Compact (buy-nothing-new) exceptions.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 16 comments }

Today I Am . . .

by Katy on June 13, 2014 · 22 comments

Today I am . . . 

  • Happy to have some time off from work. (I worked 36 hours this week, which hit me like a Mack truck.)
  • Starting to get my thoughts organized for my son’s month in Japan. (He leaves in six days!)
  • Annoyed with how messy the house gets in my absence. (Am I the only one with the skill set to stay on top of laundry?)
  • Clean, fed and relatively relaxed. (It’s amazing how stress-free the mornings are with only one kid to get out the door for school.)
  • Looking forward to a nice restaurant meal to celebrate my older son’s high school graduation. (He went immediately to a school sponsored all night party, so there was no special dinner on graduation night.)
  • Saddened by the school shooting at Reynold’s High School. (Portland is a small enough community that I both know a teacher and a parent from the school.)
  • Fighting off some kind of cold or something, which is why the work week hit me so hard. (I sometimes envy those whose jobs are not so physical.)
  • Arranging for our former Japanese exchange student to move into our house tomorrow. (It will just be for a few weeks, and he’s a great guy so we’re all looking forward to it.)
  • Planning to buy either locally made omiyage gifts or edibles as Japanese host family gifts. (It’s nice to not reinvent the wheel, as I think I’ve bought for seven or eight Japanese host families through the years.)
  • Hearing a continuous loop of UB40′s Fools Rush In in my head. (It played during a surgery yesterday, and somehow stuck.)
  • Listening to Maeve Binchy’s Chestnut Street on my hand-me-down iPhone. (I love, love, love the option for digital download from The Multnomah County Library!)
  • Enjoying the drizzly weather. (My garden could use a good soak, so it’s more than welcome!)
  • Returning the borrowed cap and gown to my son’s school. (Thank you!)

Now your turn. What are you doing today?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Excuses, Excuses

by Katy on June 9, 2014 · 27 comments

You may have noticed that my blogging has been a bit sparse lately, and it’s due to a number of circumstances. My sons have been hogging the laptop for the end of school year homework crunch, which means I simply don’t have access for blogging. Also, I’ve been working uncharacteristically busy with the swirling vortex of life:

  • Readying my 16-year-old son for his month in Japan.
  • Helping out/visiting my parents who both had surgery over the past few weeks.
  • Readying the house for an old Japanese exchange student who’s going to be staying with us for a few weeks.
  • Planning special things for my 18-year-old high school graduate.
  • Attending graduation ceremonies and soccer tournaments.

Cooking, cleaning, cooking, working, sleeping, parenting, neighboring, erranding, daughtering, hosting. It’s a wonder my head doesn’t explode!

Of course, frugality and simple living weave themselves through my daily life, even if when I’m not writing about it. My older son is borrowing the single-use $59 cap and gown from the school instead of buying one, I packed up an afternoon of food into a recently purchased $1 garage-saled Coleman mini-cooler for a recent soccer tournament; and I continue to hang laundry on the clothesline, listen my library audiobooks and cook from scratch.

And when my son informed me that he needed a white dress shirt for his Japanese completion ceremony, we were able to locate a perfectly acceptable $4 Goodwill version. Even though this news came the afternoon of the event!

Breathe Katy, Breathe . . .

I will get through the next couple of weeks, and life will simplify again. Bit until then, I may be blogging a bit less.

P.S. I have come to the opinion that Jostens (the graduation supply company) is a predatory business. They have a monopoly on required graduation items and charge a unconscionable amount for their poor quality products. Just say no, people. Just say no.

P.P.S. My lack of blogging in recent day may or may not have something to do with the second season of Orange is The New Black being released on Friday.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 27 comments }

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

There is one category of budgeting that can make a huge difference in your spending, and that (no surprise here) is food.

Of course, food is not simply an expenditure. Food physically fuels us and is also one of life’s greatest pleasures. From preparation to consumption to clean up, food defines our days and nourishes our souls.

But that doesn’t mean we should just eat whatever we want whenever we want. Not only would that method clog our arteries, but it would also drain our bank accounts. But does a commitment to cheap eating relegate us to nothing but bland lentils and oatmeal? (Not to malign lentils, as one of my favorite dishes is red lentil soup!)

So is there a sweet spot of spending less on money on food without sacrificing the joys of food? I say yes, and here’s how.

How to eat cheaply:

  • Cook at home. I cannot emphasize this enough, as a single meal in an expensive restaurant can pay for entire week of groceries.
  • If you are eating out, save it for a special occasion. Also, drink the water and forgo the appetizers and dessert. Restaurant servings are usually plenty big enough.
  • Save eating out for food you don’t know how to prepare at home. So forget eating hamburgers at Applebee’s, and instead head for ethnic restaurants like Indian, Thai and Japanese.
  • Eat seasonally. This means strawberries in summer, asparagus in spring and pears in the autumn. Not only will you take advantage of sales, but the produce is most likely fresher.
  • Keep a few frozen meals stashed aside for those inevitable crazy evenings. This will save you from pizza delivery and MSG-laden takeout Chinese.
  • Buy your spices in bulk. And if it’s something you use irregularly, just buy a small amount.
  • Buy in bulk, but only if it’s food you eat regularly and can use up before it goes bad. A 50 pound bag of oatmeal is only a bargain if you eat it up before the moths do.
  • Teach yourself to cook. The internet has made it possible for anyone, anywhere to research recipes without the necessity of a cookbook library. Want to make chicken enchiladas for dinner? Great, just look it up on Allrecipes.com or a similar site.
  • Allow that not every meal has to be a Julia Child masterpiece. Nothing wrong with omelets for dinner, a homemade salad and store brand ice cream for dessert.
  • Don’t pay other people to chop your lettuce, peel your carrots and mix your salad dressing. These convenience foods cost more, add chemicals and age your food. It only takes a few minutes to wash and chop a head of lettuce, and your product is superior in the end.
  • Don’t overbuy to the point where you end up wasting food. Be realistic about how your family eats and shop accordingly . Yes, spinach is good for you, but if it always ends up as slime, switch over to what your family actually eats.
  • Grow your own food. If you have soil and sun, you can grow some of your own food. Even if it’s just a tomato plant in a 5-gallon bucket, you can still play farmer.
  • Store your leftovers in clear containers. This one is huge for me. If I can’t see it, I forget it’s there. Invest in a set of Pyrex lidded containers and actually see the treasures that lie within your refrigerator.
  • Pack your own school and work lunches. Not only will you save money, but it’s a perfect way to use up small amounts of leftovers and your lunch hour will no longer be spent buying food. (More time for reading blogs!)
  • Talk to your friends and families about their go-to frugal recipes. Everyone has their own favorite cheap meals, and is usually happy to share.
  • Replace expensive ingredients with cheaper options.
  • Tuck leftover bits of perishables into soups, pasta salad, fritattas and salad.
  • Eat less. Easier said than done, but always a admirable goal.
  • Either work with a meal plan or practice the pantry principle. Either way, you’re able to pull dinner together without drawing a blank at 5 P.M.
  • Keep inexpensive snacks on hand both for both kids and adults.

I’m sure there are methods for cheap eating that didn’t make it into the list, so it’s now your turn. What do you do to keep control of the food budget? Please share your ideas (or even a recipe!) in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 19 comments }

It’s time for another one of my Non-Consumer Photo Essays, where you get a glimpse into the death defying exciting acceptable visuals from my world.

Remember my $6.99 5-pound bag of bleu cheese crumbles from The Grocery Outlet? Well I finally divvied it into canning jars for the freezer. I can now pull out normal size amounts to put on salads for the foreseeable future. And that green topped jar? The lid is from a container of parmesan cheese and fits perfectly on standard size canning jars.

Bleu cheese

I recently came across, (but didn’t buy) this vintage Chuck and Di tea tin. The pained expressions on their faces are so supremely uncomfortable. Such a difference from the happy and confident Kate Middleton.

Chuck and Di

My sons are both very talented artists, but it’s my older son’s art that cracks me up. This card is what he came up with when I told him that his grandmother was coming over and he needed to make her a Mother’s Day card.

Aww . . . such a loving sewer rat mama.

Happy Mother's day!

My parents has always snapped up vintage samplers and embroidery pieces. This one has been hanging in my family home since I don’t know when. I love the sentiment to “Cook Without a Book.”

Cook without a book

Remember the kiwi vines I planted back in April? (As in stuck some sticks into a flower pot?)

Kiwi vines

Three out of four of them survived, and are growing like crazy now. I don’t think I’ll be eating much fruit this year, but I am looking forward to lots of delicious and healthy kiwis starting next year!

Kiwi

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 22 comments }

This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Karyn and Gwen whose comments were randomly chosen as winners. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment in the blog.

I’m not a traditional food shopper, as I shop all around town to meet my family’s food and household needs. Costco for olive oil, yeast and yogurt; Trader Joe’s for Dishwasher detergent and toilet paper, Fred Meyer and Safeway for loss leader sales and  The Grocery Outlet Bargain Market for gourmet goodies and whatever amazing bargains I happen to come across that day.

See? Here I am at the gourmet cheese station, my go-to spot for whenever I have guests over for sophisticated drinks and nibbles. Or vacations. Or when I’m craving fancy cheese. Or Sunday through Saturday.

High end deliciousness without high end prices.

Katy & Cheese

This giveaway was prompted by an earlier purchase of an entire shelf of Columbus brand smoked pastrami. I recognized this brand, as it’s sold at both Trader Joe’s and New Season, (our locally owned Whole Foods-y chain.) My husband brings deli meat sandwiches to work, and it gets pricey. He doesn’t want to eat nasty processed meat, so I knew this was a must-buy situation.

I first bought a couple of packs to try them out, and then returned to the store and cleared the entire freaking shelf! Twice in the past I’ve picked up amazing deals at The Grocery Outlet and returned for more only to find that it was all gone (Bonne Maman jam and Pomi tomatoes.) So yes, I snapped them all up!

I recommend that if you find an amazing bargain on something, that you stock up right then and there.

I Tweeted about my amazing deal, and The Grocery Outlet reached out to me about doing a blog giveaway.

Ummm . . . heck, yes! And when I floated the idea to the Facebook group, the response was a resounding “Yes, I love The Grocery Outlet!”

For those who may not be familiar with The Grocery Outlet, they are individually owned franchises that stock their shelves with extra food, beer and wine, plants and dry goods, selling the extra merchandise that traditional stores were not able to buy. They do not stock expired food, and as a result of their non-traditional business model they’re able to price their items for much, much less than other stores. They also put out circulars that feature specific deals.

Pastrami

I was given a $50 gift card to spend for review, and I got to work straightaway. Camera in hand, I creeped around the store documenting some of great deals that caught my eye like these pretty bottles of dried parsley. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but these are big bottles! I like the chem-lab style graphics.

parsley

I snapped up a big-ole bundle of asparagus for the low price of $1.79. Not $1.79 per pound, but for the entire bundle! (Needless to say, they were perfection.)

Asparagus

I don’t know what’s going on with lime prices lately, but I knew that that 50¢ apiece was a great deal, so these too went into my cart.

Limes

I ventured into the non-food aisles as well, and had my eye drawn by this inexpensive bar of olive oil soap. Partially because the original price was $9.95, (who spends that?!) and also because it’s “Antioche Zeytinyagi.” My husband and I both went to Antioch College in Ohio, and let me tell ya’, the student population would have benefitted from some extra soap.

Antioch Soap

Unlike other food outlet shops I’ve visited through the years, The Grocery Outlet stocks a ton of organic, vegan and gluten-free items; which are normally a pricey part of a food budget.

Vegan/organic:

Mushroom broth

Gluten-free/organic:

Gluten free organic flour

I ended up having to make two separate shopping trips to spend my entire $50 gift card, but my favorite bargain that came home with me was this $6.99 5-pound bag of bleu cheese crumbles. Considering that bleu cheese normally costs $10 per pound and up, this was a screaming good deal! (We put bleu cheese in our daily dinner salads.) I’ll be freezing the cheese in small portions, and enjoying the year (or so) of crossing this expensive item from my family’s shopping list.

Bleu cheese monster

Luckily, the fine folks at The Grocery Outlet sent me two $50 gift cards to give away to lucky readers.

Gift cards

To enter to win one of the gift cards, simply write your name in the comments section below. One entry per person, please. I will randomly choose two winners, Friday June 6th at 9 P.M. PST.

Good luck, and happy bargain hunting!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 238 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on May 29, 2014 · 34 comments

  1. I went to a meeting last night for my son’s upcoming trip to Japan. One of the parents brought a case of tofu from his cousin’s factory, and I accepted two free packs. Tofu isn’t on my regular rotation, so I asked Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group members for ideas, and I now have at least a couple dozen ideas to incorporate the tofu into our family’s meals. (I’m already guessing that the tofu brownies idea will garner the most family votes.)
  2. Someone gave me a $10 gift card to Uwajimaya, (a huge Japanese grocery store) a couple of years ago. My mother was recently in the hospital for a scheduled surgery, which was unfortunately very far from the house. Luckily, the store was on the way home, so I stopped in to pick up snacks for my son’s 16th birthday sleepover. I bought ten assorted bags of 99¢ shrimp chips and then gave the card to the woman in line behind me, (as I wanted to make sure the remaining 10¢ would get used.) All the credit got spent, I paid nothing out of pocket, some of the party snacks ended up being free and I didn’t end up having to spend $5 in gas to save $10!
  3. My husband normally has a very hard time sticking with a shopping list when he goes to Costco, and he just returned and happily announced that the only extra thing he’d bought was a container of blueberries. This, dear readers is a huge victory! (BTW, the list included olive oil, chicken, bagels and yogurt.)
  4. My younger son and I had an hour to kill yesterday between school and the aforementioned meeting. At first we were going hit up Starbucks, (so he could redeem his free birthday drink) but it wasn’t showing up on his account. Instead we went to my father house, where we visited with family and I enjoyed a lovely cup of tea.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Now your turn. What frugal activities have you been up to lately?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 34 comments }

I hate paying money to fix problems. I rarely, if ever throw money at a problem, instead I try to figure out a solution from what I already own or can get for free. (Hello . . . my mother’s basement!)

I have a hedge-row of arborvitae in my backyard that we planted back in the day when our neighbor kept abused pit bulls behind his house. (There are regulations about how high a fence you can build, but zero regulations about how high a hedge can grow. So yes, we planted arborvitae, much closer than was recommended.) These tall thin evergreen tress have shot up to 15-20 feet, but a few of the branches were drooping down from being weighed down with snow. I’ve tied them to the fence with yarn in years past, but that trick only lasted a year or so, so I decided to make use of some zip-ties we already owned.

Zip-ties

Look at the drooped down branches:

Droopy branches

Enter a chain or two made from zip-ties:

Zip chain

And now the hedge is nice and vertical again:

Hedge-after

And the cost of this landscaping project? Zero-point-zero dollars since I already owned the zip-ties. The cheapest and most important component to any project will always be your own ingenuity.

And those pit bulls? Thankfully long gone.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 11 comments }

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